Adam Mis recently celebrated two years as greens superintendent at Transit Valley Country Club in East Amherst, N.Y. He has served in superintendent roles over the past three decades at golf courses throughout New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. We spoke with Adam to learn more about his role at Transit Valley and plans for the future of the course.
What sparked your interest in this field?
When I was in high school, I lived in Highlands, N.C., and my mother worked at Highlands Falls Country Club. There were some part-time jobs available, so I started off as a bag boy and working in the pro shop. The superintendent at the time told me I should work with the grounds crew, so I did that for several years and really enjoyed it. I went to college in Florida to study architecture, but after one semester, I said, “you know what? I really miss the golf course.” So, I called my old boss; he let me come back for a while to save money and gave me a college recommendation letter. I ended up graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in turfgrass management. I got my first job as a superintendent at East Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., and I’ve been in the business ever since. I worked in New Jersey for several years at two different courses. Most recently, I was superintendent for 19 years at Brookfield Country Club, which is right down the road from Transit Valley.
Related: Fred Gehrisch, CGCS Highlands Falls Country Club Highlands, NC
How have the first two years been in your new role?
I came to Transit during a time of transition for the course. They had just done a major clubhouse renovation and were coming out of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think we were at around 260 members. Today, we’re at 325, and we just opened [membership] again for another 25 or more. So, we’ve done a lot of great things. We’ve identified areas where the golf course needs to be improved. Our board members have been very supportive, and with the extra gain in membership, we’ve had revenue to do some big projects. This spring, we’re starting a full-course irrigation project. This will be a big investment in not only the club, but also in me and where I think the club can go from here.
What other changes are you overseeing?
I did a master plan at the last golf course I worked at in partnership with an architect, so I brought in the same architect to Transit Valley to oversee [the implementation of] a master plan here. We’re in the process of doing that now. We’re doing some in-house tee renovations because we’re trying to [establish ourselves as] a large family club and help drive the game of golf for young people. Next will be the new irrigation system to maintain the property correctly, and then we’ll be doing bunker renovations.
What makes Transit Valley different from other places you’ve worked?
I’ve been in the Buffalo area for 23 years and made lots of connections. I have to say that our staff here is the most experienced staff I’ve ever had. I have several former superintendents working with me; I’ve never been at a property that’s had that.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
There’s a lot of camaraderie. There are so many people you meet throughout the years, and you make sure to keep in touch. I know people who I worked with 35 years ago and we still see each other. It’s a really great group. There are some long, hard days, and lots of people are in the grind during the main season. But it’s a really fulfilling career with lots of self-gratification when you see the finished product. I’m also happy to see that we are starting to have more women in the industry; we were really lacking for many years. I’ve always had great success with female employees on my crew, so I’m pleased to see this transition.
What advice do you have for aspiring superintendents?
Communication is key, no matter what. Make sure you’re on the same page with your club leadership. People will come to their own conclusions if you don’t communicate. Golfers are intuitive – if they’re asking a question about what’s going on, you should be able to give them a correct answer. It’s a team effort and it will make your job easier.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I’ve got a daughter who’s a volleyball player; she’s really into sports. I have two grandkids that I love being around. I like cars and boating, and me and my wife like to travel. We just went to Paris for our anniversary, and it was a lot of fun.
About Transit Valley Club
Transit Valley started with humble beginnings and has become one of the finest golf courses in New York State. The Club was established in August 1921 when nine men met to plan a new country club in Western New York. The first challenge for the new Board of Governors was to convince others to join a country club which was only conceptual in nature. After only one week, the Board was able to persuade another thirty-one people to join the Club. Charging everyone an initiation fee of $200 and annual dues of $50, Transit Valley now had its funds to organize. Land was purchased in East Amherst, New York, which was a great distance from the majority of the population in the City of Buffalo.
Construction of the Golf Course started almost immediately and George Langlands was hired as course keeper. Mr. Langlands was a course construction expert who had been in the employ of such nationally known course builders as Donald Ross. He had spent many years in designing and constructing under more than a dozen different links builders whose names are almost as familiar to golfers as Ross. To complete the construction as quickly as possible, members worked side by side with the work crew. Members of the Club even had to pay the work crew payroll out of their own pockets until Initiation Fees from new members could be obtained. The front nine was completed in September 1922. As more members joined, the Club grew and the last nine holes were completed in 1924.
Related: Restoring the “Old Style” Essence of Donald Ross at a Historic Golf Course
The next order of business was the construction of a clubhouse. In order to obtain a mortgage, it was necessary to remove all encumbrances from the property. This required that the Club raise $60,000 by selling sixty Life Memberships at $1,000 each. This was accomplished and the construction of the Clubhouse began. In April 1926, the construction was completed and the members had a new clubhouse, and a new $90,000 mortgage.
There were many men who helped Transit Valley become established as a first-class country club. One of those men was Ganson Depew, after whom the Championship Trophy for the New York State Amateur Golf Tournament is named. Ganson Depew was an Honorary Member of Transit Valley from 1924 until his death in 1934.
Transit Valley’s reputation as one of the finest golf courses drew some of the world’s greatest golfers. Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Jackie Burke, Jimmy Thompson, Bobby Locke and Gene Sarazen all were visiting players. Walter Hagen was an Honorary Member of Transit Valley.
Kyra Molinaro is an award-winning writer and editor based in Richmond, Virginia. She manages donor communications in the Advancement Office at the University of Richmond.